The Gaiety Theatre was built as an Oddfellows Lodge, but for most of its life, since it opened on 3 April 1879, the hall has been the town’s main theatre and gathering place.
An imposing architectural presence on Rue Jolie, the building also has an important place in the social history of Akaroa. Deigned by a Christchurch architect, A.W. Simpson, the façade has Italianate/Classical detailing usually executed in stone but here entirely of wood. The detail includes pilasters with Corinthian capitals, bracketed window hoods and a prominent triangular pediment. Behind this façade, the building is a plain wooden shed.
Through the years, the building has been the scene of dances, meetings, theatrical performances and movie showings. By the late 20th century it had become dilapidated, but a group of three local women took the venerable building in hand. The Gaiety Trust raised more than $300,000 to renovate the building. Wonderfully restored and brought back to life, it is once again a popular venue for community events.
The Friends of the Gaiety continue to oversee maintenance of the building.